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by Arthur Conan Doyle
The original, squashed down to read in about 35 minutes
This is the book which invented the modern crime novel by introducing the world to Sherlock Holmes. As of today there are some four thousand different books, films and plays featuring him, by far the most popular character in all fiction.
IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and joined the Northumberland Fusiliers as Assistant Surgeon, just as the second Afghan war had broken out. The campaign brought honours and promotion to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster. At the fatal battle of Maiwand I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, and sent back to England.
I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. Thus it was that I found myself standing at the Criterion Bar, when some one tapped me on the shoulder, and I recognized young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at Barts.
"Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?"
"Looking for lodgings." I answered.
"That's a strange thing. A fellow up at the hospital was bemoaning himself this morning because he could not get someone to go halves with him in some nice rooms."
"By Jove!" I cried, "I am the very man for him."
Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine-glass. "You don't know Sherlock Holmes yet. He is a little queer in his ideas."
* * *
After luncheon we drove round to the chemical laboratory, a lofty chamber, lined and littered with countless bottles. There was only one student in the room, absorbed in his work. At the sound of our steps he glanced round and sprang to his feet with a cry of pleasure. "I've found it!" he shouted. "a re-agent which is precipitated by hoemoglobin, and by nothing else."
"Dr. Watson, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Stamford, introducing us.
"How are you?" he said, gripping my hand. "You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive."
"How on earth did you know that?" I asked in astonishment.
Illustrations by George Hutchinson for the 1891 Edition
"Never mind," said he, chuckling to himself. "The question now is about hoemoglobin. Don't you see that it gives us an infallible test for blood stains. Ha! ha!"
"My friend here," said Stamford, "wants to take diggings, and I thought that I had better bring you together."
Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted. "I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street," he said, "You don't mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?"
"I always smoke 'ship's' myself," I answered.
No. 221B, Baker Street, consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, illuminated by two broad windows. That very evening I moved my things round from the hotel.
Holmes was certainly not a difficult man to live with. He was quiet and his habits were regular. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness.
He was not studying any course of reading which might fit him for a degree in any recognized portal, and his ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. My surprise reached a climax, however, when I found that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun!
"Now that I do know it," he said, smiling, "I shall do my best to forget it. You see, I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones. You say that we go round the sun, if we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work."
I was on the point of asking him what that work might be, but I saw that the question would not be welcome.
During the first week or so we had no callers, and I had begun to think that my companion was as friendless as I was myself. Presently, however, there was one little rat-faced fellow who was introduced to me as Mr. Lestrade. One morning a young girl called, fashionably dressed, and stayed for half an hour or more. The same afternoon brought a grey-headed Jew pedlar, a slip-shod elderly woman, and a railway porter in his velveteen uniform.
When any of these individuals put in an appearance, Sherlock Holmes used to beg for the use of the sitting-room. "I have to use this room as a place of business," he said, "and these people are my clients."
It was upon the 4th of March, when I picked up a magazine to while away the time with an article entitled "The Book of Life." It attempted to show how much an observant man might learn by an accurate and systematic examination of all that came in his way. "From a drop of water," said the writer, "a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara. All life is a great chain, the nature of which is known whenever we are shown a single link of it. Let the enquirer begin by mastering some elementary problems. Let him, on meeting a fellow-mortal, learn at a glance to distinguish the history of the man. By a man's finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his shirt cuffs - by each of these things a man's calling is plainly revealed."
"What ineffable twaddle!" I cried, slapping the magazine down on the table.
Holmes remarked calmly. "I wrote that article myself."
"Yes. The theories which I have expressed there, I depend upon for my bread and cheese."
"And how?" I asked involuntarily.
"Well, I have a trade. I suppose I am the only one in the world. I'm a consulting detective. People come, I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee."
"But do you mean to say," I said, "that without leaving your room you can unravel some knot which other men can make nothing of?"
"Quite so. You appeared to be surprised when I told you, on our first meeting, that you had come from Afghanistan."
"You were told, no doubt."
"Nothing of the sort. I knew you came from Afghanistan. A gentleman of a medical type, but with the air of a military man. His face, dark. His left arm, injured. Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan. The whole train of thought did not occupy a second."
"You remind me," I said, smiling, "Of Edgar Allen Poe's Dupin.
Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. "Dupin was a very inferior fellow. No man lives or has ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done."
I thought it best to change the topic.
"I wonder what that fellow is looking for?" I asked, pointing to a stalwart individual walking slowly down the other side of the street, looking anxiously at the numbers.
"You mean the retired sergeant of Marines," said Sherlock Holmes.
"Brag and bounce!" thought I to myself. "He knows that I cannot verify his guess."
The thought had hardly passed through my mind when we heard a loud knock, and heavy steps on the stair.
"For Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said the very same fellow, stepping into the room and handing my friend a letter.
"May I ask, my lad," I said, in the blandest voice, "what your trade may be?"
"Commissionaire, sir," he said, gruffly.
"And you were?" I asked, with a slightly malicious glance at my companion.
"A sergeant, sir, Royal Marine Light Infantry, sir."
"How in the world did you deduce that?" I asked Holmes as the visitor left.
"I have no time for trifles, look at this!" He threw me over the note which the commissionaire had brought.
MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES, - There has been a bad business during the night at 3, Lauriston Gardens, off the Brixton Road. Our man on the beat discovered the body of a gentleman, well dressed, and having cards in his pocket bearing the name of 'Enoch J. Drebber, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.' There had been no robbery, nor is there any evidence as to how the man met his death. We are at a loss as to how he came into the empty house; indeed, the whole affair is a puzzler. I would esteem it a great kindness if you would favour me with your opinion. Yours faithfully, TOBIAS GREGSON.
"Gregson is the smartest of the Scotland Yarders," my friend remarked; "he and Lestrade are the pick of a bad lot. Get your hat."
A minute later we were both in a hansom, driving furiously for the Brixton Road, Holmes discoursing on Cremona fiddles.
"You don't seem to give much thought to the matter in hand," I said at last.
"It is a capital mistake," he answered, "to theorize before you have all the evidence. So it is. Stop, driver, stop!"
We were still a hundred yards away, but he insisted upon our alighting, and we finished our journey upon foot.
Number 3, Lauriston Gardens wore an ill-omened and minatory look. A small garden sprinkled over with sickly plants separated each of these houses from the street, and was traversed by a pathway of clay and gravel.
I had imagined that Sherlock Holmes would at once have hurried into the house. Nothing appeared to be further from his intention. With an air of nonchalance he lounged up and down the pavement, and gazed at the ground, the sky, the opposite houses and the line of railings.
At the door of the house we were met by a tall man, with a notebook in his hand. "It is indeed kind of you to come," he said, "I have had everything left untouched."
"Except that!" my friend answered, pointing at the pathway. "If a herd of buffaloes had passed along there could not be a greater mess."
Gregson rubbed his hands in a self-satisfied way. "I think we have done all that can be done,"
Holmes walked in, and I followed. A vulgar flaring paper adorned the walls, blotched in places with mildew, and here and there great strips had become detached and hung down, exposing the yellow plaster beneath.
My attention was centred upon the single grim motionless figure which lay stretched upon the boards. It was that of a man about forty-three years of age, middle-sized, broad shouldered, with crisp curling black hair, and a short stubbly beard. On his rigid face there stood an expression of horror, and hatred, such as I have never seen upon human features.
Lestrade, lean and ferret-like, greeted my companion.
Sherlock Holmes approached the body, and, kneeling down, examined it intently. "You are sure that there is no wound?" he asked, pointing to numerous splashes of blood which lay all round.
"Positive!" cried both detectives.
"Then, of course, this blood belongs to a second individual. It reminds me of the death of Van Jansen, in Utrecht, in the year '34."
"You can take him to the mortuary now," he said. "There is nothing more to be learned."
As Gregson's men raised the body, a ring tinkled down and rolled across the floor.
"This complicates matters." said Gregson.
"You're sure it doesn't simplify them?" observed Holmes, and appeared to be about to make some remark, when Lestrade, who had been in the front room, reappeared, rubbing his hands in a self-satisfied manner.
"Mr. Gregson," he said, "I have just made a discovery."
In a corner of the room a large piece of paper had peeled off. Across this bare space there was scrawled in blood-red letters a single word - RACHE
"And what does it mean?" asked Gregson in a depreciatory voice. "Why, it means that the writer was going to put the female name Rachel, but was disturbed before he or she had time to finish."
"I really beg your pardon!" said my companion, as he whipped a tape measure and a large round magnifying glass from his pocket. With these two implements he trotted noiselessly about the room, sometimes stopping, occasionally kneeling, and once lying flat upon his face.
"If you will let me know how your investigations go," he continued, "I shall be happy to give you any help I can. In the meantime I should like to speak to the constable who found the body."
Lestrade glanced at his note-book. "John Rance," he said. "You will find him at 46, Audley Court."
"Come along, Doctor," he said; "I'll tell you one thing which may help you in the case," turning to the two detectives. "There has been murder done, and the murderer was a man. He was more than six feet high, was in the prime of life, had small feet for his height, wore coarse, square-toed boots and smoked a Trichinopoly cigar. He came here with his victim in a four-wheeled cab, which was drawn by a horse with three old shoes and one new one on his off fore leg. In all probability the murderer had a florid face, and the finger-nails of his right hand were remarkably long. These are only a few indications, but they may assist you."
Lestrade and Gregson glanced at each other with an incredulous smile.
"Poison," said Sherlock Holmes curtly, and strode off. "One other thing," he added, turning round at the door: "'Rache,' is the German for 'revenge;' so don't lose your time looking for Miss Rachel."
He walked away, leaving the two rivals open-mouthed behind him.
"You amaze me, Holmes," said I. "Surely you are not as sure as you pretend to be."
"I observed on arriving that a cab had made two ruts with its wheels close to the curb. There were the marks of the horse's hoofs, too. The height of a man, in nine cases out of ten, can be told from the length of his stride. I had this fellow's stride both on the clay outside and on the dust within. It was child's play."
"The finger nails and the Trichinopoly," I suggested.
"The writing on the wall was slightly scratched, which would not have been the case if the man's nail had been trimmed. I gathered up some scattered ash from the floor. I have made a special study of cigar ashes - in fact, I have written a monograph upon the subject. As to poor Lestrade's discovery, the style of script tells me that it was not done by a German. It was simply a ruse to divert inquiry by suggesting Socialism and secret societies. I'm not going to tell you much more of the case, Doctor. You know a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick. We must hurry up, for I want to go to Halle's concert to hear Norman Neruda this afternoon."
Our cab had been threading its way through a long succession of dingy streets and dreary by-ways. Audley Court was not an attractive locality, and the constable a little irritable at being disturbed in his slumbers. "I made my report at the office," he said.
Holmes took a half-sovereign from his pocket and played with it pensively. "We should like to hear from your own lips," he said.
"My time is from ten at night to six in the morning. At eleven there was a fight at the 'White Hart'; but bar that all was quiet enough. Now, I knew that them two houses in Lauriston Gardens was empty on account of him that owns them won't have the drains seed to, though the very last tenant what lived in them died o' typhoid fever. I was knocked all in a heap at seeing a light in the window, and I suspected as something was wrong. When I got to the door ..."
"You stopped, and then walked back to the garden gate." my companion interrupted.
Rance stared at Sherlock Holmes with the utmost amazement upon his features.
"Where was you hid to see all that?"
Holmes laughed and threw his card across the table. "I am one of the hounds and not the wolf. Go on, what did you do next?"
"I went back to the gate and sounded my whistle. That brought Murcher and two more to the spot."
"Was the street empty then?"
"Well, it was, as far as anybody that could be of any good goes."
"What do you mean?"
The constable's features broadened into a grin. "I've seen many a drunk chap in my time," he said, "but never anyone so cryin' drunk as that cove a-leanin' up agin the railings, a-singin' at the pitch o' his lungs about Columbine's New-fangled Banner."
"His face - his dress - didn't you notice them?" Holmes broke in impatiently.
"We'd enough to do without lookin' after him," the policeman said. "I'll wager he found his way home all right."
"There's a half-sovereign for you," my companion said, standing up and taking his hat. "I am afraid, Rance, that you will never rise in the force. The man whom you saw is the man who holds the clue of this mystery. Come along, Doctor."
"The blundering fool," Holmes said, bitterly, as we drove back to our lodgings.
"I am rather in the dark still. If it is true that this man tallies with your idea of the second party in this mystery, why should he come back to the house?"
"The ring, man, the ring: that was what he came back for. There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it. And now for lunch, and then for Norman Neruda.
Homes was very late in returning - so late, that I knew that the concert could not have detained him all the time.
"Have you seen the evening paper?" he asked.
He threw the paper across to me and I glanced at the place he indicated. It was the "Found" column. "In Brixton Road, this morning," it ran, "a plain gold wedding ring, in the roadway between the 'White Hart' Tavern and Holland Grove. Apply Dr. Watson, 221B, Baker Street."
"Excuse my using your name," he said.
"And who do you expect will answer this advertisement."
"Why, our florid friend. If my view of the case is correct, this man would rather risk anything than lose the ring. You had better clean your old service revolver. He will be a desperate man."
I went to my bedroom and followed his advice. When I returned Holmes was engaged in his favourite occupation of scraping upon his violin.
There was a sharp ring at the bell. "Come in," I cried.
Instead of the man of violence whom we expected, a very old and wrinkled woman hobbled into the apartment. The crone drew out a paper, and pointed at our advertisement.
"It belongs to my Sally, married this time twelvemonth."
"Here is your ring, Mrs. Sawyer," I interrupted, "I am glad to be able to restore it to the rightful owner."
With many mumbled blessings and protestations of gratitude the old crone packed it away in her pocket, and shuffled off down the stairs.
Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet and rushed into his room. He returned in a few seconds enveloped in an ulster. "I'll follow her," he said; Wait up for me."
It was past midnight when I heard the sharp sound of his latch-key. The instant he entered I saw by his face that he had not been successful.
"What is it then?" I asked.
"That creature had gone a little way when she began to limp, and hailed a cab. I perched myself behind and hopped off before we came to the address, and strolled down the street. I saw the driver jump down, and when I reached him he was groping about in the empty cab."
"You don't mean to say," I cried, in amazement, "that that tottering, feeble old woman was able to get out of the cab while it was in motion?"
"Old woman be damned!" said Sherlock Holmes, sharply. "We were the old women to be so taken in. It must have been a young man, and an active one, too, besides being an incomparable actor. Take my advice and turn in."
I was certainly feeling very weary, so I obeyed his injunction. I left Holmes seated in front of the smouldering fire, and long into the watches of the night I heard the low, melancholy wailings of his violin.
THE papers next day were full of the "Brixton Mystery." Sherlock Holmes and I read these notices over together at breakfast, and they appeared to afford him considerable amusement.
"What on earth is this?" I cried, for at this moment there came the pattering of many steps in the hall.
"It's the Baker Street division of the detective police force," said my companion, gravely; and as he spoke there rushed into the room half a dozen of the dirtiest and most ragged street Arabs that ever I clapped eyes on.
"'Tention!" cried Holmes, "Have you found it, Wiggins?"
"No, sir, we hain't," said one of the youths.
He presented a shilling, waved his hand, and they scampered away downstairs like so many rats..
"These youngsters go everywhere and hear everything; all they want is organisation. Here is Gregson coming down the road, bound for us, I know."
In a few seconds the detective burst into our sitting-room.
"My dear fellow," he cried, "congratulate me! We have the man under lock and key."
"Let us hear how you arrived at this gratifying result."
"You remember a hat beside the dead man?"
"Yes," said Holmes; "Underwood and Sons, 129, Camberwell Road."
"I had no idea that you noticed that," he said. "Well, I went to Underwood, he looked over his books, and came on it at once. He had sent the hat to a Mr. Drebber, residing at Charpentier's Boarding Establishment, Torquay Terrace. Thus I got at his address."
"Smart - very smart!" murmured Sherlock Holmes.
"I called upon Madame Charpentier. When I asked if they had heard about the mysterious death of Enoch J. Drebber, her features turned perfectly livid."
"Mr. Drebber had been staying there with his secretary, Mr. Stangerson. It seems that Drebber had returned drunk and made to force himself upon young Alice Charpentier. Alice's brother, a most violent man, had gone off after Drebber. I soon found out where Lieutenant Charpentier was, took two officers with me, and arrested him."
"Really, Gregson," said Holmes, "we shall make something of you yet."
What amuses me is to think of Lestrade, who had started off upon the wrong scent. Why, by Jove, here's the very man himself!"
"Mr. Lestrade!" cried Gregson, triumphantly. "Have you managed to find the Secretary, Mr. Joseph Stangerson?"
"Joseph Stangerson," said Lestrade gravely, "was murdered about six o'clock this morning."
"Are you - are you sure?" stammered Gregson.
Lestrade answered, seating himself. "I set myself to find out what had become of the Secretary, calling upon all the hotels and lodging-houses in the vicinity. This morning I reached Halliday's Private Hotel. On my enquiry as to whether a Mr. Stangerson was living there, they at once answered, 'No doubt you are the gentleman whom he was expecting. He is upstairs in bed.' The Boots pointed out the door to me, when I saw something that made me feel sickish. From under the door there curled a little red ribbon of blood. The door was locked on the inside, but we put our shoulders to it, and knocked it in. Beside the open window, all huddled up, lay the body of a man in his nightdress. The cause of death was a deep stab, which must have penetrated the heart. What do you suppose was above the murdered man?"
I felt a creeping of the flesh, and a presentiment of coming horror, even before Sherlock Holmes answered.
"The word RACHE, written in letters of blood," he said.
Lestrade continued "The milk boy had seen a man descend a ladder raised against one of the windows of the second floor. The boy imagined him to be some carpenter or joiner at work. He has an impression that the man was tall, had a reddish face. There were no papers in the murdered man's pocket, except a single telegram, dated from Cleveland about a month ago, and containing the words, 'J. H. is in Europe.' "
"And there was nothing else?" Holmes asked.
"Nothing of any importance. There was a small box containing a couple of pills."
Sherlock Holmes sprang from his chair.
"The last link," he cried, exultantly. "Could you lay your hand upon those pills?
"I have them," said Lestrade.
"Give them here," said Holmes. "Now, Doctor," turning to me, "would you mind going down and fetching that poor little devil of a terrier which has been bad so long."
I went downstairs and carried the dog upstairs.
"I will now cut one of these pills in two," said Holmes, "and on presenting it to the dog we find that he laps it up readily enough."
The unfortunate creature's tongue seemed hardly to have been moistened before it gave a convulsive shiver in every limb, and lay rigid and lifeless.
Mr. Gregson, could contain himself no longer. "Look here, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," he said, "we are all ready to acknowledge that you are smart. Can you name the man who did it?"
Neither of them had time to speak, however, before there was a tap at the door, and the spokesman of the street Arabs, young Wiggins, introduced his unsavoury person.
"Please, sir," he said, touching his forelock, "I have the cab downstairs."
"Very good, very good," said Holmes, smiling. "The cabman may as well help me with my boxes. Just ask him to step up, Wiggins."
The cabman entered the room, and put down his hands to assist. At that instant there was a sharp click, the jangling of handcuffs, and Sherlock Holmes sprang to his feet.
"Gentlemen," he cried, with flashing eyes, "let me introduce you to Mr. Jefferson Hope, the murderer of Enoch Drebber and of Joseph Stangerson."
The Country of the Saints.
At Scotland Yard a police Inspector read the charge and said; "Mr. Jefferson Hope, have you anything that you wish to say? I must warn you that your words will be taken down, and may be used against you."
"I've got a good deal to say," our prisoner said slowly. "I have an aortic aneurism, I'm on the brink of the grave. If I die to-morrow, as is likely enough, I die knowing that my work in this world is done. I followed those fiends here, and got employment as a cab driver. Murder? Who talks of murdering a mad dog? He cowered away with prayers for mercy, but I drew my knife and held it to his throat until he obeyed me. He swallowed the poison, and I laughed, and held Lucy's ring in front of his eyes. The blood had been streaming from my nose, and I had the mischievous idea of setting the police upon a wrong track. I remembered a German being found in New York with RACHE written up above him, I guessed that what puzzled the New Yorkers would puzzle the Londoners. Then I walked down to my cab and put my hand into the pocket in which I usually kept Lucy's ring, and found that it was not there. I had to go on to do much the same for Stangerson. You may consider me to be a murderer; but I hold that I am as much an officer of justice as you are."
Jefferson Hope was led off by a couple of warders, while my friend and I took a cab back to Baker Street.
WE had all been warned to appear before the magistrates upon the Thursday; but there was no occasion for our testimony. A higher Judge had taken the matter in hand.
"Gregson and Lestrade will be wild about his death," Holmes remarked, as we chatted it over next evening. "Where will their grand advertisement be now? What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence, the question is, what can you make people believe that you have done. Never mind, simple as the investigation was, there were several most instructive points about it."
"Simple!" I ejaculated.
"I naturally began by examining the roadway, as I have already explained to you. There was no wound upon the dead man's person, but the agitated expression upon his face assured me that he had foreseen his fate before it came upon him. Having sniffed the dead man's lips I detected a slightly sour smell, and I came to the conclusion that he had had poison forced upon him. Robbery had not been the object, for nothing was taken. Was it politics, or was it a woman? The ring settled the question. I had already come to the conclusion that the blood which covered the floor had burst from the murderer's nose in his excitement, hence a ruddy-faced man. I telegraphed to the police at Cleveland, enquiring about the marriage of Enoch Drebber. The answer was conclusive; Drebber had already applied for the protection of the law against an old rival named Jefferson Hope, and that Hope was at present in Europe. I had already determined that the man who had walked into the house with Drebber, was none other than the man who had driven the cab. The marks in the road showed me that the horse had wandered on in a way which would have been impossible had there been anyone in charge of it. All these considerations led me to the irresistible conclusion that Jefferson Hope was to be found among the jarveys of the Metropolis. There was no reason to suppose that he was going under an assumed name. Why should he change his name in a country where no one knew his original one? I therefore organized my Street Arab detective corps, and sent them systematically to every cab proprietor in London until they ferreted out the man that I wanted.
"It is wonderful!" I cried. "You should publish an account of the case. If you won't, I will for you."
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